Best language learning app. Combining Language Journal with Note taking app for more efficient language learning practices
Learning a new language is a wonderful, creative and educative time spending, that will get your brain into gear. Like you train your body muscles with everyday physical activities, learning a new language is a muscle building activity for your brain.
Either you want to learn a language for fun, work or if you are an expat (like me), there is no better time to start then now. With all the online resources available nowadays, you can totally learn a foreign language yourself. The best way to learn is to find enjoyable ways to do so and create a system.
As I started to learn Thai, I found so many fun learning resources online, but didn’t find a system that will help me to be organized and motivated while learning this oh so hard language :) So being a graphic designer, who makes a living designing user friendly, practical planners, I had to create one specifically for language learning. And, if it'll work for learning Thai language, it'll work for any language in the world :)
We are all a different learners, and some methods that graduate students use, won’t work for an expat trying to learn a foreign language. So I designed interactive language journal/ kit that can be adjusted to any learning style and needs. It combines all the best language learning practices out there in One interactive pdf.
All you need to start is this Language learning kit and note taking app. In this post I compare the best note taking apps available and their features. For me personally, Noteshelf is the best note taking app. And that's what I use with my language journal. Because of the synchronization feature of the app between devices, your language kit will be available on the phone, tablet and laptop. I often look up the word or phrase in my vocabulary book on the phone before ordering food or going to the market. So I have all of my language materials always with me available in a couple of clicks :)
Set achievable goals
The first step on the language learning journey is to set your goals. Now, don’t start with “I want to speak fluently” as your first goal. Break it into small manageable chunks that you can achieve in a couple of weeks to a month. For example: “I want to buy fruits and vegetables at the market using only Thai” or “I want to be able to order food and pay for it in Thai”, or “ I want to read an article without looking into dictionary” and so on. Be sure to reward yourself for each goal achieved.
Remember that when it comes to language learning, goal setting is only the starting point. You have to be dedicated to your goals, they had to mean something to you.
Language learning notebook
The first tool in the kit is notebook. It has 5 pre-made sections and 2 empty sections for you to make your own.
Grammar section includes two different page layouts. One for shorter grammar rules and another one for longer, more difficult explanations and examples. You can copy these pages and rearrange as needed.
Common phrases section is my go to pages to write down and memorize phrases I use on daily basis. I often return to this section throughout the day. Highlighters are a great way to add some color and fun to your notes and help in learning new words in the sentences. Research has shown that color can enable the brain to acquire and organize information much more efficiently.
If you are taking language classes or online course, Class notes section is for scribbles during the class. I quickly add there teacher’s annotations, phrases/ words I hear during the class, grammar rules etc. After class, I go through my notes and add new words to Vocabulary and new grammar to dedicated section.
If you are learning a logographic language like Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, or Hebrew, Arabic, Greek or any language that uses not latin alphabet but symbols, you’ll need a space to practice how to write these symbols. Writing practice section is dedicated specifically to this. It has 6 different page templates, that are suitable for any symbolic language practice, and for practicing your calligraphy skills with latin alphabet.
Now Daily journal is one of my favorite sections in this kit. Being a huge journaling lover, I really enjoy the process of everyday writing with a purpose. Not only I learn new vocabulary and practice in building sentences, I also keep a daily diary. Looking back to the first and last entry, I’ll see how far I’ve come in my language learning.
There are "Words of the day" section on the page, "Sentences of the day" and "Describe this image" section, which I like to use for everyday memory keeping. I choose one photo/ highlight for given day, and try to describe it in foreign language. Then, using Words and sentences of the day + vocabulary from the photo description, I build new sentences and questions on the right side of the spread. This method really helps to memorize new vocabulary in a fun, enjoyable way.
Empty tabs have dotted pages, which makes them perfect to be used for pretty much anything. You can dedicate a tab for “Fun facts” about language or culture, for recipes in the language you learn, for concept maps, song lyrics, poetry, etc. I use mine for screenshots of short stories in Thai, which I try to read and translate myself.
Reflection is an important part of an interactive learning journal. So be sure to revisit the pages often to note your achievements and what you’ve learned so far. And, share your awesome spreads and progress, because it'll not only keep You motivated, but will also inspire others.
I dedicated a separate section for alphabet, as it’s the most important part of the language you are learning and to which you’ll come back many many times throughout your learning journey. In my case, learning a Thai language, I pasted screenshots of the symbols and wrote how they pronounced at the bottom. There is also a dedicated space on the left to include links for the pronunciation reference. I found websites that have audio files for the alphabet sounds which I come back to very often. So it’s nice to have these links easily available in one tap.
The Vocabulary book
Vocabulary is probably the most used section of this kit. This is where all the new useful words and phrases go as soon as I’ve heard/ saw them. New word goes to the dedicated topic. There are 46 linked slots in the kit to write down topics. For example: Basics/ introduction, Numbers/ days, country/ language, everyday items, food, action/ verbs etc. When you’ll go deeper into the new language, you’ll add more topics to your vocabulary book. For easier navigation, each topic slot is linked to that page and you can also go back to the Topics from the vocabulary page. You can duplicate page as many times as you need, so one topic can include hundreds and thousands of words and phrases.
Main vocabulary page divided on three columns: word, pronunciation and translation.
Learning a new word is kinda similar to learning a person’s name at the party. You introduce yourself, hear their name, chat for a little bit and forget your new acquaintance as soon as you leave a party. That’s why it’s important to learn new words in context or use visual references. Come back to the words you’ve learned often to refresh these in your memory.
Through many many days of research and testing, I found the best ways to write down/ learn new vocabulary. I included them as 4 separate tab sections in the Vocabulary Book.
Human brain absorbs data through images faster and more effective. So learning new words using images, will help you to memorize them much faster and words will stay in your memory much longer.
Similar and opposite words deserve separate tabs in your vocabulary book. It’s proven, that learning new words in pairs like these, will help you to memorize them better and expand your vocabulary.
The Frayer Model is a type of graphic organizer that uses a four-square model to determine, clarify, and analyze word meaning and structure. It focuses on studying one word or short phrase at a time and can be used to understand and memorize complex words/ phrases.
Write new word in the center, then add it’s definition at the left upper space, characteristics on the right and examples/ non-examples of how this word can be used/ cannot be used in real world.
There are 8 empty tabs linked to lined pages. You can choose to dedicate one of the tabs to the Gold list method, for writing down words and phrases from your favorite TV show or book etc.
This section of the kit is designed to keep track of your learning efforts and consistency with which you are studying. If you spent at least 3 hours/ a day dedicated to the language learning, you can start speaking somewhat fluently in 3-12 months depending on the language difficulty. That’s why I’ve made 30 min. slots for 3h/ day trackers. You can spent 30 min. for flashcards, 1 hour for reading, half an hour for grammar etc. Below each slot, write down study type, for example: flashcards, new vocabulary, grammar, reading.
The fun way to bring this spread to life is to color code your study type, so you can visually see what is your preferred type and into which aspects you need to invest more time. At the end of each month, summarize how many hours you’ve spend for each study type. It’s a great way to keep yourself motivated and accountable. And, see how far you’ve come in a certain period of time.
Flashcards are all time favorite tool when learning new vocabulary. Back in high school I used to create paper flashcards when I was learning english (which is not my native language) :) I had big piles of handwritten cards, which I used to carry in shoe! box. That’s how many I had. Flashcards are extremely effective for memorizing new vocabulary. And the digital flashcards are even better, because you can have thousands of cards always with you without carrying a shoe box :)
Flashcards section has 12 categories that are linked to 96 cards each. As with traditional flashcards, there is front and back. Front - for the word/ phrase written in the language you are learning and Back - for the translation. You can easily switch between the two by tapping on the “Front or back” word on the card.
The beauty of digital flashcards is that you can use images instead of written translation, which will make learning words more visual, fun and effective.
I designed this section with empty space for adding screenshots from text books and websites. You can import grammar, pronunciation rules, fun facts or resources that you’ll need quick access to. This page can be duplicated of course, so you can have entire text books in there, which you can annotate and highlight.
Look up Later section
This section is for adding quick notes during the class or while listening to podcast. Quickly add new word or phrase which you don’t understand yet, so you can look it up later without interrupting your study session.
Check out video overview of Language learning kit and how everything is hyperlinked together:
Some tips from language learning fans:
1. Start speaking from day one
2. Find the ways to enjoy language learning process. Turn it into a pleasant activity that you don’t mind doing everyday. It should be a great fun.
3. If you love the process of writing by hand, write down new words and grammar. Find interesting content on Youtube or Podcast for the language you are learning. Download your favorite book in foreign language.
4. Apply a method of self talk. Talk/ write about how your day has been, what are your plans for the weekend or take a photo and describe it to your imaginary friend.
5. You’ll need affective methods to get fluent. To learn words, come back and revisit them in a space of time. Create a system by planning a bit ahead. It’ll become a part of your everyday life.
6. Have a bit of patience. Learn in small chunks in the ways you enjoy.
And remember that It’s possible to learn new language by yourself. If you tried and gave up before, give it another try. Maybe you are one enjoyable method away from learning desired language :)
Talk to you soon,